Why we need minimum pricing to tackle alcohol woes



One of the regular readers of this column often gently chides me over my occasional mention of Mikeen’s pub in Creggs, and of the social happenings that take place there. This man feels that I am promoting the use and abuse of alcohol, an accusation that I of course totally deny.

  Now I make no secret of the fact that I like an odd pint of the black stuff, and certainly hold the belief that a quiet pint now and again can actually be a good thing – for a number of different reasons. But I have for a good while now been completely against the modern culture of drinking cheap alcohol at home, a practice that I believe can lead to all kinds of problems, including mental health illness and domestic abuse. The ridiculously low prices that supermarkets charge for slabs of lager or beer, or even bottles of wine, has led to this massive increase in home drinking, and successive governments here have done nothing to tackle the problem, probably because of the huge tax revenue such sales generate.

  Over in Scotland, where there are 22 alcohol-related deaths every single week, in May of last year they introduced minimum pricing, targeting cheap high strength ciders, spirits and fortified wines, and already there has been a 3% drop in alcohol sales. Now you might say 3% isn’t a lot, but in human terms that alone would save just under 80 precious lives a year.

  In Scotland, where there is an average of 683 alcohol-related hospital admissions per week, there are, obviously, families, friends and communities who are also indirectly affected by such alcohol abuse, and I say well done to the Scottish Government for taking action. They are the first country to do so, and as a result alcohol sales were the lowest for twenty-five years, so come on you Irish politicians, follow their example and do something about this scourge in our society.

  At least any responsible publican will stop serving someone who is obviously intoxicated and send them on their way. There is no such restriction at home where you can drink yourself into oblivion if you want and nobody, except your family, knows or cares. It’s time to tackle the problem – and minimum pricing would be a start.


Slings and sparrows


One of the unwritten rules of nature, human and otherwise, is that a mother will always protect her young.

  This morning, as I sat at the kitchen table trying to do justice to the full Irish (which by the way I did), I saw a perfect example of a mother doing exactly that.

  In the cavity blocks on my shed out the back, a family of little sparrows have set up home. The chicks are still in the nest, and daddy and mammy sparrow are in and out all day bringing food to the babies.

  This morning, for some reason, a group of bigger birds – about ten in all – seemed to be attacking the nest, but every time a big bird came to the opening in the wall, the much smaller mammy sparrow (maybe it could have been daddy) literally flew into the attacker and sent it on its way. When I realised what was going on, I took a hand myself and got rid of them, hopefully for good.

  So far today they have not come back, so let’s hope the little bird’s heroism paid off, and the chicks will make it safely into the big bad world. As long as they keep away from our adjacent clothes line they will have a good chance of survival, but if they dirty the clothes, they had better watch out. Just in case you think I mean that, I’m only kidding, and I hope that my intervention, along with that of their parents, may help them have a long happy life, flying round the countryside. Yes, I’m a real man for the birds!


Should society protect identity of young killers?


Occasionally, even in a world where we are accustomed to terrible, unmentionable deeds, something happens that is so extremely violent and debased that it shocks normal society to the core. There can be no doubt that the murder of 14-year-old Ana Kriegel in a derelict house in Lucan just over a year ago is one of those events.

  The two accused boys have been found guilty of the heinous crime.

  I have to say that I am concerned about the law which prevents identifying young offenders. I appreciate of course that it is the law, but I for one would be in favour of that law being changed.

  It baffles me as to why children who commit murder should be protected. Many people will feel that children who kill are capable of consciously planning what they do. We have seen in other cases where convicted killers (children) are, on release, given new identities, set up in jobs, arguably never publicly associated with their crimes, etc.

  Obviously the law is as it is, and a key aim is to protect the children in question, but I would argue that there should be some exceptions to the rule. Many people will question why murderers, whether aged 13 or 30, should be treated with kid gloves, indeed treated with more sympathy than their victim(s).

  I happen to believe that teenagers, because of the influence of social media and the Internet, are every bit as educated as adults are, and therefore they should pay for their crimes the same as the rest of us. Maybe the biggest revelation came after the trial, when we were made aware of the fact that Boy A had two mobile phones with thousands of images of violent pornographic acts. It would seem to me that the widespread accessibility of such material by a 13-year-old also needs to be addressed.

  In the meantime, nothing can bring back young Ana, so all I can say is how sorry I am to her parents and other family members, and may she rest in peace.


And finally…

Finally for this week, as a man who plays a little golf on Castlerea’s lovely course, I watched in wonder as a totally unknown Australian golfer, 22-year-old Hannah Green, won her first ever tournament – and a major at that – when she led the world’s top lady golfers from pillar to post.

  Even after three rounds nobody mentioned her anywhere as a potential winner, as everyone expected her to bow to the last-round pressure and wilt, but she held her nerve, played a flawless 18 holes and won the Major. I have to say it was a most uplifting win. Who knows, maybe there’s a Captain’s Prize in me yet.


Till next week, Bye for now!